Flying British Airways First Class on luxury family holidays
We are a family of five who love our holidays together but don't want to comprise on luxury during our travels. It’s me, my wife, two daughters (9,13) and one son (11).
I'm writing this from a sun lounger having flown BA First Class to Tel Aviv and driven down to the Dead Sea. I will be posting about our hotel experience later in the week, including how we checked-out of one hotel before we'd even checked in!
When: Saturday 13th April 2019
Where: London Heathrow to Tel Aviv
Flight duration: 4 hours, 50 minutes
Airline: British Airways
Cabin: First Class
We were more prepared than usual and fully packed by 10pm the previous night, with suitcases and hand luggage ready by the front door.
As an early riser, I was the first one up at 4am and whizzed around the house turning off all the plugs and shutting down the iMac.
One click of my iPhone app and the morning light settings kicked in, with the three kids waking up promptly and excited for our holiday.
Why don’t they get up like this on a school day?
By 4.20 am we were dressed and ready to go, 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Wife woke up.
For me, vacations start as we leave the house and I still get a buzz pulling up to Heathrow Terminal Five.
A short drive to Heathrow and we pulled up to Valet Parking around 5.40am. I often book the Valet Parking through Heathrow Rewards as it’s usually the best price and just so convenient. You pull up the T5 ramp and drive down to the end where somebody checks your car for damage, verifies your return details and swaps a receipt for the keys. Because it’s located at the south end of the terminal, we walked across the zebra crossing to find ourselves less than twenty metres from the First Class check-in area.
5.45 am - Check-in and First Wing
British Airways have sectioned off and revamped this south end of the landside area and rebranded it the First Wing.
To use it, you need to be travelling in First Class, a British Airways Gold card holder or equivalent OneWorld tier status.
Those travelling with hand baggage only can go straight through the security barriers, but we had more than enough luggage for our eight-day holiday, including sixteen pairs of shoes (two were mine). Ok, that’s not true, I have four pairs and a slight addiction when it comes to shoes.
There’s something about red soles that seem to shout ”buy me” any time I get within a hundred metres of Selfridges.
6.00 am - The Lounge
A few minutes at the First Class check-in desk and we were ready to go through the dedicated First Wing security channel which leads directly into the Galleries First lounge.
There are four lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5:
The Galleries North and South are primarily for business class passengers and silver BA Executive Club cardholders. The North lounge is closest to the domestic and short-haul departures but relatively small compares to the T5 South lounges. There is also a Galleries lounge and Elemis Travel Spa in T5B if you are departing from a B gate, but no lounges by the C gates.
Galleries First is accessible to any BA Gold cardholder regardless of their travel class or flight duration.
We used the Concorde Lounge which is reserved for First Class passengers or those holding a BA Concorde Room card. As First Class passengers, we were able to invite in five of our friends as guests, who were travelling on the same flight as us.
There is a staffed luggage storage facility, terrace, complementary restaurant and bar, and plenty of comfy seating.
The Concorde Room has a small number of cabanas which can be pre-booked using the BA YourFirst service, so we reserved one but ended up using it only as a private bathroom rather than a quiet space.
It has a chaise longue, TV, work/vanity desk, walk-in shower and toilet so really useful for those with long connection times between flights.
Open to all business and first-class passengers travelling long haul, the Elemis Travel Spa offers complimentary 15-minute treatments including:
Back, neck and shoulder massage
Appointments are on a first come, first served basis; however if you are travelling in First, then you can pre-book up to 28 days before your date of travel. They also have showers that you don't need a booking to use.
I opted for the massage, and it was nice to have fifteen minutes of quiet time to prepare for a week with the in-laws.
8am - Departure
Boarding for our flight onboard a Boeing 777-300 was a little messy because the screen said 'boarding all passengers', but actually, they were doing pre-boarding for those needing assistance, with younger children or in group one.
There are four groups for boarding, depending on your frequent flyer status or class of travel.
Personally, I love the BA First seat, there's a very reassuringly British feeling when you get onboard. The deep blue and soft grey tones feel like you could be stepping into a Rolls Royce Phantom.
After presenting boarding cards to the cabin crew at the aircraft door, we were escorted to our seats, 4A, 4E, 4F, 4K and 3K.
On this occasion, we had booked the last row and one in front with the typical configuration of 1-2-1 where every seat has direct aisle access.
After the kids had settled, I dozed off for a little nap, woken by the roar of the engines as we moved from taxi to runway,
Each seat comes with:
Rotator control to adjust the seat position
Fully upright to a fully flat bed
USB and UK/USA power socket
Mattress, duvet, feather pillow
Electric window blinds
Large screen, usually 15.4" but 23” on Boeing 787-9
I quickly chose the movie 'Instant family' with Mark Wahlberg and noticed that the new headphones were significantly better. In fact, they were almost too loud, so I used the remote to turn down the volume.
The vanity kit and pyjamas
British Airways recently introduced new soft upgrades, including new male and female vanity kits and also male and female blue pyjamas. These replace the unisex pyjamas bearing the tick from their BA logo.
My vanity kit had:
This aircraft had been fitted with high-speed Wi-Fi as part of a fleet-wide rollout by British Airways and was reliable throughout the flight, although the £10 felt a little overpriced compared to other airlines.
Soon after takeoff, an aroma wafted through the cabin as my pre-movie trailers start.
Our flight was just five hours long, so twenty minutes into the flight, the crew took breakfast orders.
Despite having had a good breakfast in the Concorde Room at Heathrow and knowing I wouldn't likely have lunch, I went for:
Warmed nuts and a welcome drink upon boarding
Croissant and strawberry jam
Selection of meats, continental breakfast style
Joe & Stephs luxury popcorn
Some Cadbury chocolate from the Club Kitchen area
A pack of kettle chips
I'm told BA has a good selection of premium drinks onboard, although as a non-drinker I don't get to use that benefit.
I reliably informed that it's affectionately known as LPGS by frequent travellers, costs $300 per bottle and served in the Concorde Room and First Class cabin onboard British Airways,
Here are some pictures of the food, champagne and spirits menu.
Arrival in Tel Aviv airport
We arrived on time, and I had pre-booked (separate to BA) a VIP service where we got pulled aside at the airbridge and then received a tarmac transfer to immigration for fast-tracking and escorted to collect the car rental from Avis.
What did it cost
Prices for First Class on British Airways varies depending on when you book, how many seats you book and if you book restricted or flexible tickets.
Because I booked as part of a package with BA Holidays and during the luxury sale, I can't say for sure but would estimate the five First class seats came in around £8,000.
Using my fantastic mathematical skills, and a calculator, this works out £1,500 per person; actually good value when you consider economy can be £400-£500 at this time of year.
Would I do it again
In fact, I'm already booked for Barbados in August for our regular summer trip. We are sharing the cabin with nine others that we see at the hotel each year and I hope BA load enough LPGS for that flight.